all about the ride: Shibuya to Kuramae

In bike, japan on January 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Spent the afternoon, walking around the fixed shops in Tokyo, Carnival, Sexon Super Peace, and Dreamworks. Lovely to see so much fixed goodness about, spent alot of time taking photo’s of the bikes out on the street, locked up, and waiting for their owners to return so they can do what they were designed to do and race down the tarmac, the epitome of man machine interface, clipped in and rolling, perpetual motion mechanisms, eternally turning.

It wasn’t that late when I began the ride, but it gets dark quick here in Tokyo, I’m sure there’s some explanation for this, but it explains why Tokyo is the epicentre for all neon related light things. Roll through town after dark and it is as bright as day, no need for street lights let the neon signs point the way.

From Shibuya to Kuramae is like 40mins, but those 40mins were some of the best I’ve had riding a bike, up the little ascent from the infamous Shibuya crossing, away from the fashionable young things, crossing and recrossing, under the looped video screens, the warblings of Susan Doyle (yes she is big in Japan), Alicia Keys and the other diva’s who the Japanese gravitate to, past the stopped traffic turning left, onwards and upwards along the four lane highway that is Aoyama Dori, trying to out race the traffic that hunts behind you, chest tightening, thinking I should have taken a pull on the inhaler. Slow into the regular cadence as I crest the incline, looking left and right, widening the eyes, not wanting to miss a thing. Not one building, sign, bike locked up along the railings, wanting to take it all in, remember it all, wondering why science hasn’t created the camera that is attuned to the retina, that replaces it so I won’t have to stop, pull out a camera, focus, shape a shot and then shoot it, all the time losing the immediacy of the moment, because I’ve already swept past it, lost the chance to immortalise it.

Look over the right shoulder, trying to remember how to get to where I want to go, looking up, checking the signage, ignoring the kanji, looking at the words that only a few short days ago meant nothing at all. Looking more for the number, rather than the name. 413 is all I need. It’ll lead me back to where I need to be. Slip across the four lanes to be on the right side, unclip as I will do countless times on the journey and settle my groin onto the top tube, look at the people crossing, the myriad faces and styles, the uniforms they’ve adopted, so many suits and heels.

It hits me then I’m in Japan, every face oriental, seems stupid, but it is the sheer number of faces that brings it home, so many. Fat, thin, dark, light, but all of them, all of them Japanese. Know truly I am the foreigner here. Jump the lights as they change, swing right, and downhill along Nireke Dori, past the cubist/bulbous Prada building, multiple floors of fashionable consumerist need.

Roads pretty empty as Nireke Dori swings left, downhill all the way, roads dark, streetlights illuminate the road, not many cars coming this way at this time, legs spin, spin, spin, down through the quietude of Aoyama Cemetery, the road splits it in two, lying on either side of me, small headstones, darkened and almost invisible. I carry on, down, down, through the man made tunnel/overpass, which turns Nireke Dori into Akasaka Dori, road narrowing, road works at the junction. Large man waving a red stick, stopping traffic on one side, waving us forward on the other, admonishing a taxi driver who has the temerity to stop out of turn.

The roads just one lane each way now, filter through the center, enjoying the closeness of the wing mirrors, not looking at, but still seeing the shops on either side, the people waiting patiently for the lights to change, the green man to appear so they can cross the road. Sitting on the top tube, wondering why no one crosses when there’s a gap in traffic like we Londoners would. Wondering what it would be like to be a part of this conformity, would I be the rusty nail that is hammered down, or would I bend so that I wouldn’t be broken.

Hoof it and whip right onto the super highway that is Sotobori Dori, past the legions of cabs, that sit outside of any corporate headquarters or business area, three deep and  lined up around the block, to take the salarymen and women to someplace else. It is more obvious here than anywhere else, that this is a larger city than london, that there are more here than the eight million or so souls that call my birthplace  home.

Flick past the cabs which sit patiently, roll on towards Kuramae, trust my navigation tonight, trust the visual information I’ve absorbed on my other rides, trust that I’ll know which roads to take, which turns to look out for. Decide to head towards Ginza. If Shibuya is where the bright young things shop, where the cutting edge bleeds, then Ginza is where their parents shop, wealth and style combined together as the luxury brands, bunch together, oh so nonchalantly wanting you to spend your money there, but in no way trying to get you to, that would be oh so very vulgar, too much like needing your custom rather than you wanting to give them your hard earned.

Hit the switch, and take the left, sweeping into it, leaning into it, smile broad across my face, the taxi’s lined up just like the last time, waiting, eternally waiting for the television industry folks to step out from the huge building and into their vehicles. Head up Chou Dori, having a 2001 moment, for the street is “full of stars” The night illuminated by the signs which run the height of each building, advertising every business in it and which floor it is situated on. Slow down and take it in, want to ride down it bereft of cars, like I walk down the center of deserted night streets at home. Nostrils filled with the sweet perfume pungency of the fragrance sellers. Inhale. Exhale. It disappears as I head down the wide street, filtering through the center of the taxi traffic, looking for the six, which will take me off up north towards Kuramae.

  1. so…you having a good time then?

  2. Awesome. Just like riding side by side with you.

    Enjoy Osaka. See if they still hold kendo classes at the castle – it’s an amazing sight to see.

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